By Talent Ngandwe
THE government of China has advanced a $39-million interest-free loan to the financially embattled Tanzania-Zambia Railways Authority (Tazara).
Zambia’s Communication and Transport Minister, Geoffrey Lungwangwa, says that the money will be used to procure six locomotive engines and four wagons and to repair 120 wagons.
The railway line was built in the early 1970s with the assistance of the Chinese.
Lungwangwa explains that the decision to advance the loan was arrived at during a meeting held in China last month between Chinese and Tanzanian and Zimbian government officials.
Lungwangwa says, since Zambia’s economy is growing, it will require a reliable railway line to cater for increased copper and agricultural production.
The line is the main link for landlocked Zambia to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam and the principal export route for copper and cobalt from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga province.
Lungwangwa says a team of experts from China will soon be dispatched to work with Tazara’s management to evaluate its viability and to carry out a comprehensive study on how it could link other countries through the railway network.
Chinese ambassador to Zambia Li Qiamin says the financing of Tazara is a clear testimony of the good bilateral relations that his country and Zambia have enjoyed over the years.
Zambia’s President, Rupiah Banda, and his Tanzanian counterpart, Jakaya Kikwete, previously appealed to creditors to cancel Tazara’s debts – understood to be no less than $45-million – in order to save the railway firm from collapse.
Tazara currently has fewer than 300 of the 2 000 wagons it needs and has been working at around 40% of its capacity since 2000. It is also facing various legal suits from creditors, including suppliers and contractors, as well as former workers.
This state of affairs has forced Zambia’s largest copper producer, Konkola Copper Mines, to resort to exporting the commodity by road, mainly through South African ports.
Courtesy of Engineering News